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How Motivated Kids and Better Food Access Fit Together

At Sprout Urban Farms in Battle Creek, kids grow produce for a mobile food hub, which transports fresh food to neighborhoods that are lacking.

Practice for Poverty: Hunger Games

In Manistee, students go from classroom to grocery store and then into the kitchen to cook a meal they've purchased for very little money. 

How to Build an Equitable Food System: Lessons from Battle Creek

Good Food Battle Creek wants to improve access to healthy food by bringing residents, growers, nonprofits, and other concerned folks together to address challenges in the local food system. 

Winona Bynum

Winona Bynum, youth and nutrition programs manager at Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan, likens her work in the nonprofit sector to her past work in IT project management. Similar to technology projects, human service programs – like the children’s feeding programs she oversees – need stakeholder input and strong collaborations to be successful. 

Kwamena Mensah

Community organizer, farmer, teacher and change maker are among the hats worn by Kwamena Mensah, agriculture specialist and consultant with Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. As a pioneer in the urban agriculture movement, he has played a huge role in the reform of Detroit’s food system. 

Colleen Matts

Colleen Matts, farm to institution specialist at the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems, has seen kids become great farm to school ambassadors, taking their parents by the hand, sharing their knowhow about the value of locally grown food, and even telling parents where to purchase it. Matts sees kids leading the farm to school cause -- just as much as she is. 

Leah Kelley

With collaboration and positive social change in the driver’s seat, Leah Kelley of Allen Neighborhood Center in Lansing is motivating youth to think more about their role in creating positive shifts in community health. She leads the center’s Youth Service Corps, which engages community youth in food access projects through hands-on work and learning activities. 

Jen Rusciano

When Jennifer Rusciano was in fourth grade, she explored the origins of her favorite chocolate bar, connecting it to cocoa farms in Ghana. Years later, a college fellowship led her to live and work in small-scale cocoa farming communities around the world, exploring the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. After that, she joined FoodCorps in Michigan for two years, and eventually helped develop Detroit Food Academy, where she currently serves as executive director of operations. 

Lisa Machesky

As executive director of the Baldwin Center in Pontiac, Lisa Machesky sees daily the growing divide between rich and poor. She envisions a future where every child has an equal chance for success, and Baldwin Center’s enrichment and education programs for kids and basic needs assistance for families mean Pontiac children have a better footing for the future.

Bridget Clark Whitney

Since childhood, Bridget Clark Whitney, executive director of Kids’ Food Basket in Grand Rapids, has known that serving underprivileged people was her calling. She has devoted her entire career to ending childhood hunger, helping to make sure that thousands of children in greater Grand Rapids and Muskegon do not go to bed hungry.

Chet Decker

Each month, Chet Decker, executive director of Hope Center in Macomb, is responsible for feeding around 1,700 children through the client choice food pantry that he runs. Cuts to government emergency food funding, coupled with increased food costs, have Decker worried about funding at a time when there are more mouths to feed in Macomb County.  

Michael W. Hamm

Michael W. Hamm, director of the MSU Center for Regional Food System, and his staff are devoted to the good health and development of all Michigan youth. The center’s creative programs and initiatives, like Michigan Good Food and Hoophouses for Health, are helping to ensure that more children have balanced, produce-rich diets. 

Dorceta E. Taylor

A full stomach should not be a luxury. And sharp pains of hunger should never be the norm. Dr. Dorceta Taylor, a professor at University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment, recently embarked on a five-year, federally funded research study on food insecurity in Michigan. She is identifying the state’s most underserved and beginning to connect them with the resources they need to have the simple dignity of regular, nutritious meals.

Bob Randels

Over three decades, Bob Randels has watched food banking in Michigan grow from a grass-roots initiative to a cross-state system of well-run, food distribution hubs. The Food Bank of South Central Michigan’s executive director derives satisfaction from his work and continues to develop new ways to supply nutrition to the hungry.     

Cheryl Simon

Cheryl Simon gained her wisdom and knowledge from years in Detroit’s nonprofit sector before taking on the coordinating role with Detroit Food Policy Council, a group shaping food policy and championing a more just and environmentally conscious local food system. She invites those most impacted by food policy to the table to partake in both the discussion and the decisions. 

Malik Yakini

In 2006, Malik Yakini organized a meeting of about 40 people to discuss food security issues; at that meeting, the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network was born. Yakini recently won a James Beard Foundation Leadership Award for his work to ensure social justice, food equity, and food security for the people of Detroit.

Minsu Longariu

Minsu Longariu, executive director of the Restaurant Opportunity Center of Michigan, believes in the power of people coming together to create change. Whether that happens around a restaurant table or in a community meeting, Longariu says that working together is the best way to overcome big challenges.

Alison Heeres

A former volunteer for Cooking Matters courses, Alison Heeres is now in charge of educational programming for The Next Urban Chef, a program that educates Detroit youth on local food systems and sustainability while teaching valuable culinary skills. 

Amy Berkhoudt

Amy Berkhoudt brings a relative newcomer’s fresh perspective to Detroit’s issues, along with an unwavering belief in the potential of the city’s youth. She also brings energy and passion to bear in her work as co-director of the Detroit Youth Food Brigade.

Oran Hesterman

Fair Foods Network’s president and CEO Oran Hesterman, Ph.D., is a passionate leader, author, and promoter of good nutrition for vulnerable children and families. Using strong public-private partnerships and carefully measuring program impact, Fair Food Network is a leader in improving access to healthy, fresh food for Michigan residents.

Brother Jerry Smith

As executive director of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen on Detroit’s near-eastside, Brother Jerry Smith sees his role as helping people grow and develop. That belief extends from the youngest children in after-school programs to agency staff, some of whom first came to the soup kitchen for services.

Mike Garfield

There’s more than one way to help save a planet, and Mike Garfield, director of the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, has had a hand in most of them. In his 20-year career, he has seen once-radical ideas such as recycling become commonplace and has persuaded communities to consider land use in new ways. Today, Garfield and his Ecology Center team continue their work to preserve our ecosystem for future generations.

Gilda Z. Jacobs

Gilda Jacobs once worked as a Michigan state legislator. In her current position as president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy, she believes she’ll make more of an impact on the lives of vulnerable children and families. 

W. DeWayne Wells

DeWayne Wells, president of Gleaners Community Food Bank, not only measures progress by number of meals distributed to hungry people, but also by how much the community is engaged and working from a common front. Under his leadership, Gleaners projects to distribute 45 million pounds of food in 2012.  

Lisa Oliver-King

Lisa Oliver-King came to Grand Rapid’s Our Kitchen Table (OKT) with no gardening background, yet she was leading an agency that taught people to grow their own food. Today, she’s an avid gardener who dreams of expanding OKT’s gardening, farm market and outreach projects so that no one is turned away.
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